Activated charcoal is the latest must-have ingredient in personal care. We’re seeing it in face masks, supplements, and now, charcoal toothpastes are all the rage. Supposedly, it can be used to whiten your teeth, but is this trendy toothpaste safe to use or is it doing more harm than helping? Let’s look closer at it and see if you should be using it in place of your regular toothpaste.
What Is Activated Charcoal
We’re not talking about the stuff in your grill. Activated charcoal is a fine powder made from a carbon-based substance, such as coconut shells, peat, coal, and sawdust that has been heated to such a high temperature as to change its structure. The kind used in most health and beauty aids is made from coconut shells and other natural ingredients that are processed at ultra-high temperatures to make them porous enough to absorb chemicals, dirt, and other toxins.
Charcoal Uses in Medicine
Before we started hearing about it in our Fuquay Varina dentist office, we had only heard of activated charcoal used in medicine. It’s been used for years in hospitals to treat drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, and other ingestion of poison. When it’s ingested, the charcoal binds to the toxins and absorbs them, preventing damage and severe complications.
Making the Shift from Medicine to Beauty Aid
Because charcoal absorbs dangerous toxins from the body, many in the wellness industry began trying it in supplements to remove toxicity from the body to improve health. From there, the use of activated charcoal grew rapidly in popularity in face masks, shampoo, and body washes where it’s supposedly able to absorb dirt and oil from the skin and hair more easily, created a healthy, radiant glow.
Now, this black powder is used to brighten smiles as it’s said to bond to stains and pull them from the teeth to create a white, healthy smile. But is it safe to use?
The Concerns of Activated Charcoal for Teeth
As a Fuquay Varina dentist, I wanted to research these products to determine if they are safe or what the potential downsides are, and I discovered several concerns.
There’s No Proof It’s Effective
The idea is that any of the stains will bond with the charcoal and when the charcoal is rinsed away, the stains will go with it. There’s absolutely no formal evidence that it does this. While many bloggers and beauty writers swear they see a difference, there’s nothing beyond anecdotal data showing it’s effective.
It’s Highly Abrasive
Charcoal is incredibly abrasive which can give the impression that it’s removing stains and removing plaque, but this can be dangerous. When there is too much abrasion to teeth, such as by brushing with a hard-bristled brush or an overly abrasive tooth polish, the enamel, a protective coating on your teeth, is worn away. Enamel doesn’t grow back, so once it’s gone, you’re at a higher risk for serious dental issues. Plus, the dentin underneath the enamel is a darker color, so if it shows through eroded enamel, your teeth will still look yellow.
It’s Not Approved by the ADA
The American Dental Association is the leading voice in oral health and the safety and effectiveness of products used in oral health. They have yet to approve any products containing activated charcoal. We only recommend using products recommended by the ADA, so them not approving anything immediately gives us pause.
Many of the activated charcoal products come in powder form which can be incredibly messy. Users have complained of stains on clothing, sinks, and countertops, though fortunately, it does rinse away from the teeth and mouth without staining.
A Better Way to Whiten Your Teeth
If you want a bright, healthy smile, you don’t have to put your teeth at risk to do it! A professional tooth whitening uses a safe, effective peroxide-based treatment that doesn’t weaken your teeth. Plus, it’s proven to remove stains and leave you with a brighter, whiter smile. Then, at home, we recommend you brush with an ADA-approved whitening toothpaste to maintain your healthy smile.
Schedule an Appointment with Your Fuquay Varina Dentist
If you want to learn how you can restore your pearly whites, reach out to us at Hamby Family Dental Center! From product recommendations to teeth whitening to other types of dental services, we can help you achieve the look you want. Contact us today by calling 919-552-2431 or filling out our convenient online appointment request form.